“When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” — James Waterman Wise
Shortly after the Constitutional Convention convened in September 1787, Pennsylvania delegate Ben Franklin was approached by Elizabeth Willing Powel, a pivotal woman of the founding era, who asked Franklin, “What do we have, a republic or a monarchy?” “A republic,” Franklin replied, “if you can keep it.”
In a recent PBS documentary, educator and anti-fascist activist Ash Sarkar points out that “democracy is fragile because in order for it to be truly democratic, in a purist sense, it leaves itself open to being taken over by fundamentally anti-democratic forces.”
In a similar vein, New York University professor and scholar on authoritarianism Ruth Ben Ghiat explains how “one of the most crucial moments of authoritarianism capture is when traditional elites invite the authoritarian-in-the-making into power,” believing he can be contained and controlled to accommodate their ends.
I believe we’re seeing this authoritarian cycle repeating itself. Evidence of this is becoming more apparent almost daily.
Former Trump ally and convicted felon Michael Flynn recently called for a military coup to overthrow our duly elected government. Just prior to this, Trump co-conspirators Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Green made “inflammatory remarks on gun rights and armed rebellion” at a Trump-style rally in Georgia.
Paramilitary thugs such as the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers were in force at the Jan. 6 insurrection. Menacing groups not unlike Hitler’s Brown Shirts who were loyal only to the Führer, intimidating all who opposed the dictator, in and outside of politics. We’re seeing a similar stratagem being played out here today.
We have witnessed the handiwork of Trumpian thugs. After Charlottesville, West Virginia, there was the foiled kidnapping plot of Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, serving as the template for the Jan. 6 terrorist attack on the nation’s Capitol. An assault downplayed as little more than a “normal tourist visit” by Trump toadies in Congress. These same people have now opposed a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission for fear that it will expose many of them as being sympathetic to the insurrectionists.
In 1930’s Germany, Nazi Party office holders stoked animosity toward their Communist Party counterparts in the German Parliament to win over converts to their ill-fated cause. Today, many congressional Republicans are copying this tactic, weaponizing their attack by misappropriately painting Biden and congressional Democrats as “Socialists,” intended to provoke their base while persuading independents and defecting Republicans to join their grab for power.
Like their Nazi predecessors, GOP-controlled state legislatures are enacting legislation attempting to give credibility to their leader’s big lie about massive voter fraud. Measures that are primarily designed to hold onto power in a party that has lost its moral compass.
Today’s Trumpists represent a demographic in this country, not unlike Hitler’s supporters, who seek to establish a nationalist purity, spearheaded by a dominionist theology and white nationalist groups. A mindset that too many of our relatives, friends and neighbors have identified with, most without fully understanding how ill-fated this is for sustaining a republic worth keeping.